[Via Satellite 12-15-2014] On Oct. 16, Intelsat began the first of four consecutive satellite launches aimed at expanding services in Latin America where the company already dedicates a quarter of its fleet. In 2013, 16 percent of the company’s revenues came from this region. Speaking to Via Satellite, Intelsat VP of Latin America and the Caribbean Carmen Gonzalez-Sanfeliu discussed the company’s ambitions with Intelsat 30 and the next three spacecraft: Intelsat 31, Intelsat 34 and the first EpicNG satellite Intelsat 29e.
Latin America experienced an economic crisis from 2006 to 2008 that in the ensuing years gradually developed into more positive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers. Gonzalez-Sanfeliu said the improvement seen over the following five years played a critical role in guiding these satellite projects. Latin America is now considered a promising growth region for a multitude of satellite services.
“We are looking at putting together some special products and opportunities for this payload, Gonzalez-Sanfeliu said, speaking of the C-band payload on Intelsat 30. “And it just goes to show that it aligns with the phenomenal broadband explosion that there is in the region. This broadband explosion covers various grounds. You are looking at explosions of media, cellular backhaul, of mobility — all of these are very key areas that we are focusing on.”
Collocated with the Galaxy 3C satellite at 95 degrees west, Intelsat 30 also carries a Ku-band payload known as DLA-1 for DirecTV Latin America, a significant Intelsat customer. The next hybrid Ku- and C-band satellite, Intelsat 31, will carry another Ku-band payload for DirecTV Latin America. Intelsat 31 is a backup satellite for Intelsat 30, and will also be located at 95 degrees west, where the C-band payload is to enhance the company’s existing service infrastructure. The satellite is scheduled to launch on a Proton rocket next year.
Intelsat 34 is a growth satellite designed to replace Intelsat 805. Arianespace is contracted to launch the satellite on an Ariane 5 in 2015. Gonzalez-Sanfeliu highlighted key broadcasting opportunities as a driver of growth.
“The C-band payload will be targeting the Latin America/Pan-America region where we have really key customers such as HBO and Fox. We are going to have a payload dedicated to Brazil where we have a [Direct-to-Home] DTH customer, with some expansion capabilities as well, and we are also going to have mobility,” she said. “This is a really important satellite to us.”
Telecom and digital television growth have driven demand for satellite services in Latin America in recent years. Euroconsult Senior Consultant Nathan de Ruiter told Via Satellite that transponder demand for video services can be attributed to the rapid development of the regional broadcasting market and the TV industry’s progressive digitalization.
“The regional satellite pay-TV market in particular has experienced strong growth following the launch of 10 new platforms in the last three years, which has led to the launch of a significant number of new channels including an increasing number of HD channels (i.e. 150 HD channels added in 2013). Several satellite pay-TV platforms (e.g. Claro TV) have also expanded their coverage to new countries in the last few years, leading them to add capacity in order to broadcast channels from these countries,” de Ruiter said.
In contrast to Intelsat 34, the EpicNG High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Intelsat 29e will focus heavily on mobility. Under construction by Boeing, Intelsat 29e is scheduled to launch in 2015 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. That Intelsat’s first EpicNG satellite focuses on the Americas is a testament to the potential the company sees in the regional market.
“We started in the region because it is a growth region and this is primarily for our network customers, so it’s going to be primarily for our cellular backhaul customers,” said Gonzalez-Sanfeliu, adding that backwards compatibility with existing networks is a top priority for the new HTS system.
Latin America is a nascent market for HTS, with the industry’s first dedicated payload coming online on Hispasat’s Amazonas 3 in 2013.
Gonzalez-Sanfeliu said there are still patches where 2G exists, as well as room for 3G. Government programs to bridge the digital divide by improving rural communications also contribute to the growth of more powerful mobility services.
“Despite the late arrival [of HTS], Latin America is expected to be one of the most dynamic markets in the coming years, growing to be the second largest region in terms of capacity supply by 2017,” added de Ruiter.
A number of satellite operators are actively considering, or have already committed to adding capacity, including HTS, over Latin America. More HTS capacity planned from the future Eutelsat satellite Eutelsat 65 West A, Hispasat’s Amazonas 5, and Inmarsat through Global Xpress are a few examples. The growing number of options has led to elevated concerns about the risk of oversupply, but de Ruiter said the narrow spot beam technology of HTS systems means that the available supply at any given point is generally around 2 percent of the total regional amount. Gonzalez-Sanfeliu also expressed confidence in the demand for HTS and traditional capacity.
“The beauty is that the pie is getting bigger,” she said. “This is due to the phenomenal explosion in broadband demand and need for content everywhere, and you will see that the market is responding to this.”
Intelsat has strong video communities in Latin America that Gonzalez-Sanfeliu described as tier-one customers. The company also has terrestrial plans to extend the IntelsatOne fiber network into Brazil, and is looking at placing edge nodes in Mexico and other countries in the region, she said. The expansion of IntelsatOne will be done with key local partners in each instance, Gonzalez-Sanfeliu added.
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